Interesting New Research on Helping Your Spouse

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This may be good news to women who exhaust themselves providing help and support and to the men who love them.
Researchers Erin E. Crockett and Lisa A. Neff studied gender differences in what support from a spouse does for our stress levels (or, in the more precise language of researchers, our cortisol slopes). Help from a husband reduced stress (increased the slope) in women. But supportive acts from a wife increased stress (flattened the slope) in men, regardless of how stressed they were otherwise or how satisfied they were with the marriage. The harm was greatest for the men who perceived themselves as worse at problem-solving.
If you’re waiting for your husband to need you or to appreciate all you do for him, your expectation is not only making you miserable; it’s likely making him less healthy. Do less. Enjoy him more.
And if you are a guy who wants less help or a woman who wants more, be sure to tell your spouse. We all gauge these things through their meaning for us, and this is yet another area where our experiences are likely to be different just because of our hormones.
To read more: http://spp.sagepub.com/content/4/2/190.abstract?etoc
Wishing you many loving moments this Valentine’s Day!

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

6 Comments

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  • Interesting research to say the least. I’ll definitely bear that in mind in future. As ever communication is key… I feel a chat about this coming on tonight… oh OK maybe tomorrow, maybe not the most romantic talk on Valentine’s Day!
    Thanks Patty, you’re a star
    Grace

  • I am reading this at the most opportune time. My fiancĂ© and I are in a very painful spot this afternoon, partly because of how much I do for him. I’m the person who commented a while ago on a “Third Alternatives” entry about my fiancĂ© who is an inmate–so how do I do less for him when everything I do for him is very important? I send him money orders (he has no one else for this support), I put money on his phone account, I paid ~$50 to print out 2 sets of pictures of celebrities to repay someone who did him a favor (he didn’t ask me before agreeing to this arrangement), I call the warden about once a month even though I feel like the warden hates hearing from me (and I hate calling people). I am resenting how much I do for him but some of these things have pretty serious consequences if I stop them, and the rest of them will put quite a wedge between us if I stop them. This morning he said all of these things are not hard to do and I act like I’m climbing a mountain for him.
    Is the answer is expect love? I want to enjoy him more, I really really do.

  • Thank you so much for your reply Patty! To clarify, he is the one saying I act like I’m climbing mountains for him. (“All that stuff you do for me isn’t hard and you act like you’re climbing a mountain for me.”) I actually really do want to do these things, I want to do anything I can for him, so I will work on letting go of the expectation of my own specific brand of appreciation, and do my best not to bring up how much I do for him since all it does is stress him out.

  • Just make sure you are not stressing yourself out, too, Teresa. If you bring up how much you do for him, it is questionable whether you actually enjoy doing these things.
    It is also possible you DO enjoy them, but you have not yet honestly told him what YOU want, thinking you must somehow earn it. If he wants to love you, you don’t need to earn it.

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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